NATURAL WHEEL OF CHANGE AND RENEWAL – Equinoxes, Solstices and Fire Festivals
Celebrating the equinoxes, solstices and fire festivals is an interesting and sometimes challenging way of connecting with the cycles of nature and the world we live in – out into the Universe. It is our historical wheel of change and renewal.
I have been thinking about writing this for a while and yesterday my wonderful postman left me a calendar called
“Almanach du facteur”, as I live part of the time in the Corbières in the Val de Dagne (Artemis) in France. It is just bursting with monthly tips for the garden, recipes, anecdotes, dictums and there was just what I needed in the “Did I know” bit for December.
On the calendar, four times a year, were the letters QT which my almanac tells me stands for Les Quatre Temps which are three days originally set aside for prayer and fasting at the beginning of each season to give thanks for the events of the past season and to sanctify “semailles, moisson and vendanges”. – Les Quatre Temps are particularly associated with Saint Jerome. When I looked it up on the net, it is fascinating to see how many shopping malls, car retailers, health centres are called Quatre Temps and streets called St. Jerome are full of shops. The exclusive shops in London’s Jermyn Street come to mind. Shamanic practice is still alive and well in the business world whatever the intent as it is part of our DNA to relate to the seasons – our lives and livelihood still depend on it.
For many years, I was fortunate enough to have a sweat lodge in my garden; a dome shape often made from willow or hazel with a hole dug out in the centre then covered with blankets. A fire would be lit nearby and firebricks or appropriate stones would be dedicated to whatever was relevant to the individuals taking part; my youngest son always dedicated his to the “Dreamtime”.
Four times during the ceremony, the hot bricks from the fire are slipped into the dome as the Fire Keeper shouts “hot rocks” and water and herbs (gathered locally during the day) are sprinkled on them creating aromatic steam.
To enter the dome, you crawl in entering the belly of Mother Earth and pray, sweating out the things you want/need to let go of. A spiritual sauna, another form of Les Quatre Temps.
A sweat is a form of purification and renewal at all levels relevant to the time of year, season, and a commitment of intent for the next three months. Fire Festivals, which come between the Equinoxes and Solstices, are an opportunity to review that commitment gathering learning from the outgoing season, planning and moving towards the incoming one in the true spirit of shamanism – all things are interconnected and nothing exists in isolation or is wasted.
At a physical level, by literally sweating, we can detoxify our bodies and through prayer and meditation begin the detoxification of the other levels. There are many aspects to a sweat and each person can participate at whichever level they choose. It can be by helping with collecting wood, building the lodge, preparing food, fire keeping, singing, making music, looking after the children. Just being there within the community and sitting by the fire can be equally as beneficial as entering the sweat lodge.
Fire festivals are celebrations of the work done so far and a gathering of inspiration for the next stage. A time for contemplation alone alongside being within the community. Lighting candles and fires are used as symbols of the shining light of the coming together of spirit and clarity.
Each time we complete a year’s cycle, we become clearer about why certain things happen at certain times. We can feel more connected with the world around us, stronger, better equipped to survive and thrive in our daily lives.
There have been times when it hasn’t been possible to literally have a sweat lodge and I learned that it is possible to find other ways to honour the process nonetheless. For health reasons alone many people are unable to literally sweat. Putting the intent out to the Universe helps. I have suddenly had flu at the “right” time and have literally sweated and had the time to do the work albeit in bed. I can have a steamy bath, then go into a quiet room and follow the same principles. In the Meditations section of this page you will find some meditations videos you can use at these times.
Setting up a sacred space with other people and sitting in the dark with a candle in the middle can work. You can also do that alone, agreeing to do it at the same time as other people.
One autumnal equinox, I found myself staying in a bed and breakfast and I made a tent with the bedclothes. I felt a little silly to start off with and certainly regressed back to childhood, but that was what I needed to do. I also connected with the grief around my husband’s death and the next day realized that the house was similar to the one we had lived in. It was also in the same area, I was able the next morning to revisit familiar places which had been a part of our lives with huge gratitude for the spirit of place – interesting how it works